It's Alive Trilogy: It's Alive Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Written and directed by Larry Cohen
1974, 91 minutes, Rated PG
Blu-ray released on May 15th, 2018
John Ryan as Frank Davis
Sharon Farrell as Lenore Davis
Andrew Duggan as The Professor
Guy Stockwell as Bob Clayton
James Dixon as Lt. Perkins
William Wellman Jr. as Charley
Michael Ansara as The Captain
Daniel Holzman as Chris
Frank and Lenore Davis are expecting a new addition to the family. When Lenore goes into labor, they drop their son off with a neighbor and head to the hospital. Things quickly go awry as the difficult birth brings forth a monstrosity that immediately kills the delivery room attendants. Police are brought in to search the area, but the infant is nowhere to be found. Frank takes his wife home, but the news is out and soon they are social pariahs, parents to a killer monster. The baby leaves a trail of bodies in its wake as it makes its way through the suburbs in search of its family home and later through the drainage tunnels of the Los Angeles River. Frank is determined to see the thing dead in an effort to prove to society that he is normal, but Lenore is becoming an emotional wreck. The baby is determined to reunite with its parents and anyone that crosses its path is in extreme danger, for it only knows how to kill.
It’s Alive is a solid drive-in film from writer/ director Larry Cohen (Q: The Winged Serpent), one that knows its exploitation roots and never strays too far from delivering the goods. The monster is teased in quick glimpses throughout the picture and the kills come every fifteen or so minutes. The film works as a horror movie but also as a black comedy. The baby’s path of terror is tinged with laughs as it humorously kills a milk man and later attacks an elementary school where it finger paints with blood. There is a strong message of adults fearing the younger generation, spelled out on the back of an ice cream truck in letters that read “Stop Children”. Babies are monsters, childbirth is scary and abortion is a serious option that “everyone discusses”. Medical science is on board to capture and study the baby while the police have orders to shoot to kill. All of the classic monster movie tropes are on display but given a unique spin when applied to a newborn child.
John Ryan (Runaway Train) stars as Frank Davis, a gruff man trying to make sense of a crazy situation. He is angry that this bad luck has fallen on his family, angry that the press leaked his identity and angry that the police are unable to end this quickly. He spends the majority of the picture trying to kill the creature until he comes face to face with it and his paternal instincts take over. Ryan plays the material straight and keeps it serious even as things grow more outlandish. Sharon Farrell (Night of the Comet) is sympathetic as the put-upon Lenore Davis. She tries to put on a brave face but is quietly falling apart. Farrell is also a source of comic relief as she is bombarded with bad news and steadily loses her shit. The real star of the picture is make-up effects artist Rick Baker, whose mutant baby creation is the reason people come to a film like It’s Alive. The monster is frightening even in glimpses and appears realistic despite its deformities.
Larry Cohen is a prolific writer with a wicked sense of humor. He packs the script with social commentary ranging in topics as diverse as environmental pollution, abuse of prescription medications, birth control and the apprehension of becoming a new parent. The movie is well-made and moves at a decent clip without bogging down with endless scenes of exposition. One of the bigger wins for this movie is the participation of legendary film composer Bernard Hermann (Psycho), who delivers a compelling score. Cohen eventually struck box office gold with this release following a limited run in regional theaters across the country. The picture spawned two sequels over the next fifteen years and audiences continued to return to cinemas for each grisly installment. Killer babies seem silly as a high concept but Cohen pulls it off delivering thrills and chills with ease.